HC Deb 02 May 1967 vol 746 cc282-6
5. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what further steps his Department is taking to ensure the economic viability of Gibraltar, in view of the continuing difficulties with Spain.

Mrs. Hart

As announced by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary at the end of last year—[Vol. 738, c. 1158]—Her Majesty's Government are providing an extra £600,000 from Colonial Development and Welfare funds for prejects under the Gibraltar Government's Development Plan and a special grant-in-aid of £100,000 to the Gibraltar budget for 1967. In the first months of this year revenue and imports have been satisfactory and the number of tourists has increased. Further talks will be held between the two Governments later this year to decide on the next stages of the plan.

Sir F. Bennett

Would not the hon. Lady agree that the chief threat to Gibraltar comes in the economic sphere from Spain, and that the best possible way of bringing some relief to the people of Gibraltar is by announcing economic measures to ensure the viability of that colony to make Spain realise for ever more that she has no chance of bringing it to its knees?

Mrs. Hart

The Gibraltar Government are pushing ahead as fast as they can with plans for economic development and, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said in the House, we are very ready to help in any way that we can.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has not the time come to make our position unequivocally clear to the Spanish Government, and will my hon. Friend now consider withdrawing financial and travel facilities to that country?

Mrs. Hart

I think my hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend made the Government's position quite clear in his statement on 13th April, and we shall continue to make our position totally clear.

6. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what instructions he has sent to the Governor to forestall any resultant danger to aircraft landings arising from the unlawful works now being undertaken by the Spanish authorities in the neutral zone.

38. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether it is proposed to continue to use Gibraltar in the normal way despite the restrictions announced by the Spanish Government.

Mrs. Hart

No danger is foreseen to aircraft landings in consequence of the Spanish activities in the northern area of the isthmus, which Britain does not claim to be British territory. Accordingly, no special instructions have been sent to the Governor on this. But the manner in which recent demolitions have been carried out has caused extensive minor damage to roofs and windows of adjacent buildings, to parked cars, and to the frontier fence itself. The Spanish Ambassador was informed yesterday that we are seriously concerned about this and that we reserve the right to claim compensation.

As to the restrictions announced by the Spanish Government on 12th April, my right hon. Friend stated on the following day that we intend to uphold to the full our right to use the airfield at Gibraltar. We have sought clarification from Spain about the extent and possible effect of the prohibited area. We have arranged that if the position is not clarified to our satisfaction the matter will be raised in the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation on 10th May. Meanwhile the Board of Trade is in close touch with the civil airlines.

Sir F. Bennett

Is the hon. Lady aware that in previous Questions and Answers I, at least, had been given to understand that we do not accept the right of the Spaniards to erect buildings and to carry out demolition in a neutral zone, and that whereas we might not claim it as British, we did regard it as neutral? Is the hon. Lady announcing a shift in attitude, namely, that we accede to the Spaniards the right to carry out these works in what is called the neutral zone?

Mrs. Hart

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman would be wrong in drawing that conclusion. The position is that we do not claim that this territory is part of Gibraltar. To that extent Spanish works cannot be considered unlawful, but the territory has never been defined in terms of international law.

Mr. Fisher

Does the hon. Lady know how Spain intends to try to enforce this new restriction? Will the hon. Lady confirm the very strong resentment felt by both sides of the House, and I believe by British people as a whole, about this latest example of Spain's bullying tactics towards Gibraltar, which has done nothing to provoke them?

Mrs. Hart

I confirm that that is our view, and it is for this reason that the Spanish Ambassador was given our clear thinking on this matter yesterday. It was made clear that we reserve the right to claim compensation, and that we deplore this kind of thing.

As I have said, the question of flying rights over Gibraltar is a matter which is now in the process of being clarified with Spain. If we do not get satisfactory clarification, we shall raise the matter at I.C.A.O. next week.

17. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what criteria require to be satisfied before he recognises a party as an official opposition in a Colony; and whether, in view of the fact that the only opposition in Gibraltar now is the Integration Party, putting up candidates at the coming by-election and the next general election, in future he will ensure that the Integration Party is invited to all-party discussions with Gibraltar on its future.

Mrs. Hart

The question of official recognition does not arise.

If and when all-party discussions on Gibraltar are held we will certainly bear in mind the claims of the Integration Party to participate.

Sir W. Teeling

Is it not true that, when negotiations were held about Malta and other countries which are now independent, all parties were invited and that we have now been asking the Gibraltar Government and everyone there to be united in their discussions with the United Nations? Therefore, why can we not ask the Integration Party to come too?

Mrs. Hart

A great deal depends on the constitutional position in the territory concerned. The point in Gibraltar is that there is no provision for the appointment by the Governor of a Leader of the Opposition. The relevant fact is that the Integration Party are not at present represented on the Gibraltar Legislative Council, but I hope to discuss things with them when I am there and we shall certainly consider any matters they raise.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the hon. Lady bear in mind that the idea of integration of Gibraltar with Great Britain has many friends in this country? In view of the entirely new position which is now developing, with both sides of the House showing almost complete unanimity in condemning Spanish behaviour, can she not take the initiative and invite integrationists from Gibraltar to London to discuss the future?

Mrs. Hart

The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that I am going to Gibraltar on Friday.

20. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether, in view of the coming by-election in Gibraltar, he will consider not sending any Minister to visit Gibraltar until after the election so that no one will consider that he, or she, is influencing the election by such a visit.

Mrs. Hart

My visit cannot reasonably be construed as intended to influence the forthcoming by-election in Gibraltar in any way.

Sir W. Teeling

Would the hon. Lady tell us why? Surely a most attractive lady like herself can influence quite a lot, and the election is only a few weeks ahead. She has told us that she will next week use some influence for something. Will it be against the Integration Party?

Mrs. Hart

The hon. Gentleman must surely be clear—I thought that the whole House would welcome the fact—that I am proposing to go to Gibraltar to have discussions with every section of opinion to acquaint myself fully with the situation on the spot. I think that my visit has been generally welcomed in Gibraltar.

Mr. Maudling

While Ministers' visits to by-elections are not uniformly successful, would the hon. Lady be careful, in any public statements which she may make in Gibraltar, to say nothing which may be construed as affecting the by-election?

Mrs. Hart

The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that Ministers, in these situations, can be guaranteed to behave with due perspicacity.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Whatever may be the view of Her Majesty's Government towards the suggestion made in this Question, will we continue to give complete moral support to the people of Gibraltar, who are loyal to the Crown?

Mrs. Hart

I assure my hon. and learned Friend that one of my basic intentions in visiting Gibraltar is to convey to the people of Gibraltar exactly the views he has just expressed.